May 31, 2019
Nebraska Court of Appeals Holds Annual Session in Lincoln County
Chief Judge Frankie Moore of North Platte, center, presided over a three-judge panel’s oral arguments during the Nebraska Court of Appeals’ annual session in the Lincoln County Courthouse district courtroom. Joining Moore on the panel were Judges Michael Pirtle of Omaha, left, and Riko Bishop of Lincoln. Once a year, Frankie Moore’s job lets her stay home in North Platte.
In a brief interview before the opening session, she said she’s still energized by her work after 19 years on the court — even though “that Interstate can get scary.” “I don’t have any plans at the current time” to retire, said Moore, 60, who first moved to North Platte to practice law in 1983. “I enjoy my job, and I want to keep doing it for the foreseeable future.”
Founded in 1991 after voter approval of a state constitutional amendment, the six-member Court of Appeals was designed from the start to keep both its judges and their formal sessions closer to the Nebraskans they serve. It divides into two three-judge panels every two months to hear cases, shuffling the panels’ lineups each time, Moore said.
North Platte has long been a regular stop on the court’s annual circuit, she said. Other regular stops are Kearney, Norfolk, Papillion, Omaha and the court’s home courtroom in Lincoln’s State Capitol. In addition, the appeals court occasionally hears arguments on Nebraska’s college and university campuses, she said. A three-judge panel will visit Concordia University in Seward in September to mark Constitution Day.
Unlike the seven Nebraska Supreme Court judges, Court of Appeals judges maintain home offices in their districts as well as in the Capitol. She welcomes the court’s chances to educate Nebraskans about the different role appeals judges play in deciding a case. Whereas county or district court sessions can involve jurors and many other players, oral arguments typically involve the appeals judges, a lawyer for each side and a 10-minute clock. Moore and her fellow judges already know the case’s trial record and have researched the legal issues, she said. The oral arguments allow attorneys to stress particular points or judges to break in with questions about matters they’re uncertain about.
“We’re not trying to be rude by our interruption of their 10 minutes, but we want to get to the heart of the matter,” Moore said.
Sometime after the arguments, one member of the panel is assigned to write the opinion. But all three judges critique and review the decision, she said, and “on occasion, the other two can persuade the author-judge to a different way.” The panel’s ruling is the final word on a case unless the losing side can persuade the Nebraska Supreme Court to take another look, Moore said. The high court takes only two types of cases directly: criminal cases involving death or life imprisonment and any case involving whether a particular state law is constitutional.